The Territories and Majesty of Shakespeare’s King John – UCL Monday 23 November 2015

I’ll be giving a talk with the title of ‘The Territories and Majesty of Shakespeare’s King John’ tonight at UCL.

Monday 23rd November, 6pm, IAS Talking Points seminar, Common Ground, University College London – with responses by Professor Helen Hackett, Department of English and Dr James Kneale, Department of Geography. Free pre-registration is requested.mercator_map

This lecture will discuss Shakespeare’s play King John around two themes – the question of majesty and that of territories. Majesty is a continual concern throughout the play, described as ‘borrowed’, ‘banished’, ‘resembling’, ‘dangerous’ or ‘the bare-picked bone’. John is seen as a usurping monarch, denying Arthur his rightful inheritance, but by the end of the play majesty has been so diminished by events it is perhaps worth very little. But what is that majesty over? Among other things, it is the lands of the kingdom. King John is one of only a handful of Shakespeare’s plays in which the word ‘territories’ appears. There is one mention in the opening scene, and one in the final act. The first of these had caused editors much confusion, because it is used with a definite article – ‘the territories’ – rather than a possessive ‘his’, ‘her’, ‘its’ or ‘their’ territories. What might this mean, and what might it indicate? Thinking about these questions of majesty, land, and territories, the talk will discuss how King John and contemporary play The Troublesome Reign of King John anticipate the dual themes of domestic disorder and foreign conquest found in Shakespeare’s other history plays.

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